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'Tourism jobs - short lived professions': Student attitudes towards tourism careers in China

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According to the China National Tourism Office (CNTO, 2006), the yearly average growth rate of tourism revenues is 12%, which is much higher than the overall GDP growth rate of 7%. [...] this study should be viewed as a starting point in China for the development of theory about tourism students' attitudes towards working in the tourism industry and improving practices.

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									                                        Vol. 8, No. 1.
                                      ISSN: 1473-8376
                                 www.heacademy.ac.uk/johlste

                                     ACADEMIC PAPER

    ‘Tourism jobs – short lived professions’: Student
       attitudes towards tourism careers in China
   Bingli Jiang (blank_invisible@hotmail.com) and John Tribe (j.tribe@surrey.ac.uk)
                School of Management, University of Surrey, Guildford, GU2 7XH, UK

                                   DOI:10.3794/johlste.81.168
                 ©Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport and Tourism Education

Abstract
Tourism is of increasing significance to the economy of China and the industry is set to
recruit 1 million tourism personnel in the next ten years. This exploratory study used
grounded theory to investigate tourism students’ attitudes towards working in the tourism
industry. The data analysis resulted in the emergence of a core category - tourism jobs:
short-lived professions - which summarised the attitudes and views students held about
tourism jobs. While students expressed enthusiasm about starting their first jobs in tourism
following graduation, the five sub-categories that were identified to explain the factors
influencing their attitudes reveal underlying concerns about long-term careers in the tourism
industry. These five sub-categories were (a) personal reasons, (b) nature of tourism jobs, (c)
human factors, (d) educational factors, and (e) management factors. The study highlights the
importance of understanding the views and attitudes of the potential workforce towards
tourism jobs. It also emphasises the challenges facing China’s government, tourism
enterprises and the education sector if they are to address the issues that may negatively
influence tourism students and hinder the healthy development of the tourism industry.
Keywords: China; grounded theory; attitudes; students

Introduction
The rationale for this article is the rapid rise of tourism in China, a concomitant development
in tourism education, and a specific relationship that arises between education and the
industry. On the industry side, the World Tourism Organization (WTO, 2001) predicted that
China would become the world's largest tourist market by 2020. China has mapped out its
20-year tourism development plan, which estimates that by 2020 the country's tourism
revenue will exceed US$398.7 billion, equal to 8% of the country's total GDP. According to
the China National Tourism Office (CNTO, 2006), the yearly average growth rate of tourism
revenues is 12%, which is much higher than the overall GDP growth rate of 7%. At present
there are around 6 million people employed in the tourism industry and in the next ten years
nearly 1 million tourism job vacancies will be generated (CNTO, 2006).

However, rapid growth raises questions about the quality and quantity of the labour force, the
quality of the industry and the attractiveness of the industry to new recruits. Tourism
education has become increasingly important in China, particularly as a consequence of
China’s transition from a centralised planned economy to a more mixed economy. Zhang and

Bingli Jiang worked on this research as a postgraduate student at the University of Surrey.

John Tribe is professor of tourism at the same university. He is co-chair of the UN World Tourism
Organisation Education Council, editor of Annals of Tourism Research and specialist adviser for
tourism for the UK Research Assessment Exercise.
Jiang and Tribe (2009) ‘Tourism jobs – short-lived professions’: Student attitudes towards 
								
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